16 Days of Activism for no Violence against Women and Children runs from the 25th November to 10th December. In connection with this, this week on Radio Islam we are looking at the sufferings of children at the time of divorce. It might not always involve violence but the emotional and psychological abuse is tragic, and sometimes horrific.
The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children
Mental Health Problems – Divorce may increase the risk for mental health problems in children and adolescents. Regardless of age, gender, and culture, children of divorced parents experience increased psychological problems. Divorce may trigger an adjustment disorder in children that resolves within a few months. But, studies have also found depression and anxiety rates are higher in children from divorced parents.
Behaviour Problems – Children from divorced families may experience more externalizing problems, such as conduct disorders, delinquency, and impulsive behaviour than kids from two-parent families. In addition to increased behaviour problems, children may also experience more conflict with peers after a divorce.
Poor Academic Performance – Children from divorced families don’t always perform as well academically. However, a study published in 2019 suggested kids from divorced families tended to have trouble with school if the divorce was unexpected, whereas children from families where divorce was likely didn’t have the same outcome.
Here are some strategies that can reduce the psychological toll divorce has on children:
Co-Parent Peacefully – Intense conflict between parents has been shown to increase children’s distress. Overt hostility, such as screaming and threatening one another has been linked to behaviour problems in children. But minor tension may also increase a child’s distress. If you struggle to co-parent with your ex-spouse, seek professional help.
Avoid Putting Kids in the Middle – Asking kids to choose which parent they like best or giving them messages to give to other parents isn’t appropriate. Kids who find themselves caught in the middle are more likely to experience depression and anxiety.
Maintain Healthy Relationships – Positive communication, parental warmth, and low levels of conflict may help children adjust to divorce better. A healthy parent-child relationship has been shown to help kids develop higher self-esteem and better academic performance following divorce.
Use Consistent Discipline – Establish age-appropriate rules and follow through with consequences when necessary. A study published in 2011 showed effective discipline after divorce reduced delinquency and improved academic performance.
Empower Your Children – Kids who doubt their ability to deal with the changes and those who see themselves as helpless victims are more likely to experience mental health problems. Teach your child that although dealing with divorce is difficult, he has the mental strength to handle it.
Help Kids Feel Safe – Fear of abandonment and concerns about the future can cause a lot of anxiety. But helping your child feel loved, safe, and secure can not only reduce clinginess but also diminish the risk of mental health problems.